Seattle Thunderbirds second-year forward Mathew Barzal made his return to the ice Friday at Tri-City after missing more than two months after fracturing his knee cap during a practice in early November.
In front of a sold out crowd of 6,208 at the ShoWare Center Saturday, the Thunderbirds held a 30-13 shot advantage deep into the second period, yet trailed on the scoreboard 3-2. Seattle played much of the game in Portland’s zone, peppering Hill with shots, but the young Portland netminder was terrific.
Taran Kozun’s 2.23 goals against average in 32 starts through January 4 is tops among all qualified Western Hockey League netminders. That reliability between the pipes has kept Seattle (20-16-2-3) in nearly every game, giving it hope for an aggressive playoff push in the second half.
Theodore now has five points in two games since joining the T-Birds Thursday, tying him with Thomas Hickey for second place on the Thunderbirds all-time defensive scoring list with 177 points.
Despite being without 40 percent of its scoring at one point, Seattle went 5-1 in the first six games out of the holiday break to climb into the sixth position in the Western Conference standings.
Keegan Kolesar scored two goals and added an assist to lead Seattle (17-15-2-2) to just its second win in five games against division-leading Everett (21-11-3-1). Ethan Bear had a late goal to go with two assists, and reserve goaltender Danny Mumaugh had 28 saves in his sixth start.
Down their top two centers in Mathew Barzal (lower body) and Alexander True, the latter competing in the 2014 World Junior Challenge for Team Denmark, the Thunderbirds moved captain Justin Hickman to the center position on their top line.
After his poor rookie campaign, there was almost zero buzz surrounding the forward from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Two short months have changed that. The word is out, and it would be more surprising now if Kolesar weren’t a high-round selection in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Friday’s victory came on the heels of a dominant 4-1 win over Spokane Sunday when the team opened a 2-0 lead. Suddenly, Seattle (12-12-2-2) has won three of its last four after losing five of six.
Seattle’s 6-foot-2 leading scorer entered Friday’s contest with 12 goals and 10 assists through 27 games. He now has 13 goals and 11 assists for a six-point advantage over the Thunderbirds’ next leading scorer.